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News |  17 Nov 2016 15:31 |  By Suhas Thobbi

The Power of [Team] Nucleya

L-R: Vijay Nair, Nucleya (Udyan Sagar), Tej Brar, Rahul Sinha
L-R: Vijay Nair, Nucleya (Udyan Sagar), Tej Brar, Rahul Sinha

MUMBAI: The iconic Rang Bhavan, Independence Rock, blueFROG, NH7 Weekenders and MTV Indies, all in their respective capacities, performed a significant and constructive role in altering the music ecosystem of the country or at least how the ‘mainstream’ perceived it. The alternative music scene lately welcomed another historic chapter in its inconsistent but hard-fought journey. Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy, the former vocalist of Scribe and the director of upcoming AR Rahman produced movie ’99 songs’, simply summed up the historic moment with a few lines on Facebook – “Today, an indie artist launches his album at a stadium. A stadium. Not a nightclub. Not an auditorium. Not an amphitheatre. A stadium. This is the absurd fantasy we used to talk about while standing in the serpentine queue outside Rang Bhavan. One day we'll sell out stadiums. And it won't be for mainstream film music.”

The ‘Raja’ of Bass, Nucleya, which has now become the identity of Delhi-based musician Udyan Sagar’s musical prowess, enjoyed a sudden surge in stardom which is, more or less, a spectacular story. A story that begun with no corporate label backing, evolved into a ‘Love or hate him, but cannot ignore him’ process and eventually shaped into a powerhouse.

At NH7 Weekender ’16 (Hyderabad), the founder of Only Much Louder (the agency that manages Nucleya), Vijay Nair expressed his admiration for the musician by declaring him a ‘legend’. That Nucleya’s music had all the necessary ingredients to find a place in nightclubs and the streets was obvious but the artist’s team played an extremely vital role. Under Krishnamoorthy’s post, Udyan Sagar thanked the former musician and added, “I don’t think I deserve them (the kind words) entirely”, and rightly so.

On the verge of dropping him from the roster, OML handed Nucleya’s responsibility to Tej Brar (the now-Artist Management Head at OML) towards the end of 2013. Brar’s task demanded selling a widely unheard artist’s content to a struggling scene with weak infrastructure and inconsistent trends. Brar gathered the best of Nucleya’s produced compositions and shared it for free via Bandcamp, under debut effort ‘Koocha Monster’. This propelled him to instant popularity which the manager credits to “India welcoming the electronic music scene at the right time” as one of the reasons for Nucleya’s general approval among listeners and organisers and, eventually, brands.

Brar’s crucial decision in 2013 snowballed into this phenomenon that not only performed to 12000 fans inside a stadium three years later but also received recognition from international counterparts. Sure, a few artists have toured across the country (and globe) in higher frequencies, but in aspects of volume, no one has sold as many tickets as the hottest act in the Indian alternative music scene since September 2015.

Today, Team Nucleya rejects approximately 80 per cent of performance requests, more than any other musician in the roster or possibly the country.

Nucleya’s first album ‘Bass Rani’ was launched amongst Ganesh devotees on the streets of Mumbai, a marketing strategy that was self-evidently brilliant and once again, a Tej Brar decision. Around the same time, Rahul Sinha (Nucleya’s booking manager) joined the wagon when “shit really hit the fan.” Even though initial reactions were satisfactory, Bass Rani is what disrupted the scene. “Since then, till today, I have been getting phone calls to book Nucleya. It has now become tougher because 80 per cent of the times my phone rings just because ‘xyz’ organiser has heard about his popularity. It’s not an ego thing. We reject their proposals depending on the inability to execute shows of Nucleya’s scale, or more importantly, in Nucleya’s style” says Sinha.

During the first half of 2016, Nucleya performed 18 shows, and the number rose to 23 shows for the second half. “That’s just a figure on social media,” insists Brar, who informs that there were easily quite more shows. “The number easily reaches 100 since the launch of Bass Rani and April 2016. Then he took a break to be with his family, and for the second half, he would perform, or rather, headline at at least 40 shows.” ‘Team Nucleya’ called the latest album launch tour as ‘Bass Yatra’, further signifying the seriousness around the musician-turned-cult figure Nucleya. The producer travels with a photographer (Nishant Matta), visual artists Wolves, manager, a VJ and an opening act. Nucleya is too big a deal to jump on someone else’s stage, and he’s too massive to have a show of his own.

“The current strategy is to not restrict him to a venue with crowds of a 100. Instead of six small shows, we do one huge show.”

Nucleya emerged through club culture but his current massive popularity simply does not allow Nucleya to return to these clubs on a regular basis. Arguably the busiest artist management team, Brar and Sinha will continue to focus on unchartered territories – the tier 2 cities, colleges and festivals – ensuring Nucleya headlines the event.

“The decision to do lesser but larger shows helped us hit his personal and professional targets. With that, he gets more time on the personal side. “

“In India, if he is not headlining, we are not playing the show,” states Brar, who later added that Electric Daisy Carnival stands as an exception, as the festival debuts in India with a heavy international line-up. “Honestly, it’s not an ego thing at all, it’s just a matter of scale. The crowd favours Udyan to headline, plus it becomes difficult to find someone who would follow Nucleya’s set. Many DJs are scared to follow Nucleya.”

No Indian artist has built his own set up or own show or own spectacle with fireworks and effects. It’s an international level show.

The famous NSCI show, in a way, created something that most musicians dreamt of. For anyone in the business, this could have been an immensely profitable event, the team could have made money for the entire year. But Nucleya wanted it to be a free event because his sound pulls people from all strata of the society.
Such is the massive fan following for Nucleya that a cancelled show in Bengaluru invited a lot of unexpected mails and phone-calls from his fans not asking for refund, but most simply curious to know the rescheduled date. A good headache to have? “Yes and no,” answers Brar, “to the Bengaluru fans, I would say that we have planned something beautiful for you, and it’ll be a proper Nucleya show, trust us.”

“Lessons taught us to be selective when it comes to working with people. If anything goes wrong, I don’t think promoters or organisers get blamed, it’s Nucleya who faces the heat. We have tried to minimise mistakes to almost zero this year.”

“If Udyan was a 17 year old kid, riding on the waves of success, he would have buckled under the pressure,” adds Brar. “The guy is punctual and professional. All we have to do is set up, the rest is Nucleya.” NH7 Shillong proved that the North East was not just filled with fans of rock music. Performing at the same time as Steven Wilson, 7-8000 fans attended Nucleya’s slot.

“We have reached the point where we know the fans are going to show up,” continues Brar. “When Nucleya goes international starting next year, he will continue being unique with the sound and not do what other artists do. ‘Raja Baja’ is the final lockdown. India is ours. Nucleya is it. He is the biggest musician in the country, and the next logical step is to head out more often. The team looks forward to partner with people that Nucleya has affinity with or shares the synergy with, for example- Mad Decent Block Party. Nucleya has always been inspired by Diplo and Skrillex. Our job is now to find the middle ground between India and the international scene.”

“The world is looking to the east and what a great time for us to be bubbling up.”

The team understands that the Indian (street) sound that helped ‘Nucleya’ find his feet and then soar into the Indian sky may very well act as the biggest and only obstacle to headline a festival in the west. “He is not going to headline Europe, the whole country knows that,” admits Brar. “We cannot replicate the Indian scene there. We will play the 2 pm and the 4 pm slots because that’s how you build it, to have longevity.”

Nucleya performed at least three overseas shows this year with an overwhelming response through the Indian audience. But a good reality check arrived when 400 Chinese attendees had no clue about who Nucleya was when the musician went down to Shanghai. “It felt like 2013 again. Starting from scratch,” recollects Brar. “This is how most of your Bollywood stars do it. They perform to an Indian diaspora. We could go the Bollywood route, but that’s not the way we want to head to.”

“It has taken 3 years but Nucleya has become what we had projected him to become. This was not unintentional, it was extremely planned.”

The frenzy during live gigs did not reflect in this year’s DJ MAG rankings, and Brar could not care less about it. “Did any DJ perform to sold-out venues? No. Does Nucleya perform to sold-out venues? Yes. I guess, that answers it all.”

Brand Nucleya has started attracting services that reserved themselves for mainstream ‘stars’. With Adidas, Nucleya exposed himself to the world of endorsements. Now, the artist associates himself with Levi’s and Saavn, to name a few. Be it Bacardi or a radio channel, the industry now looks to Nucleya as a sellable prospect, and team Nucleya looks at these projects as ‘icing on the cake’.

Nucleya sold more T-shirts than AIB and NH7 Weekender. Merchandise is not profit for the team, no matter how much they sell, what matters is the number of people who have that T-shirt.

With brands came Bollywood, who have been calling Sinha and Brar for a possible collaboration. “Should Nucleya do more Bollywood? Yes and No. If Anurag Kashyap calls, we would do his movie. If Karan Johar calls, we probably would not. We want our audience to relate and it should match Nucleya’s aesthetic. We have done two Bollywood projects and the experience was a stepping stone for us. Now the ball is in our court. All final creative decisions lie with Nucleya. No music director will direct his/her terms on Nucleya’s music. As far as music videos are concerned for Nucleya’s compositions, a lot of stuff has been planned, but we will not make generic music videos, we will do art,” informs Brar.

So what does the near future hold out for Nucleya? “Well, firstly, we will roll out the remaining singles of ‘Raja Baja’ before the end of November. We want to execute every show similar to NSCI’s scale, that’s the objective. Udyan knows his roots and that’s where he would head back to – the clubs. No one knows about it, but Nucleya will perform at a few clubs that Udyan loves.”

As history suggests, nothing can be conquered without a proper support system. And the newest ‘Raja’ of music, similar to every other king across eras and regions, only managed to conquer with the help of his advisors. Where does this Bass Yatra head to? More promising lands? It does not matter, it surely has left a great impression in the history of entertainment in India.

[image credits: Nishant Matta/ Bacardi NH7 Weekender/ Only Much Louder/ Nucleya/ Mitsun Soni]